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TENSION HEADACHES | Nebraska Children's Home Society Adoption AgenciesGuest Contributor AMY FLETCHER

Roughly 20% of 5-17 year-olds in the US are prone to headaches. The National Headache Foundation estimates that 15% of these children are susceptible to tension headaches, while a further 5% experience migraines. No parent likes to see their child in pain, but regularly medicating a child who is prone to headaches is a concern too. However, if tension headaches are a frequent concern for your child or a child in your care, the good news is that there are some natural remedies that can help to ease their pain.

The power of massage

When a headache is caused by tension, whether that’s through tiredness, anxiety or over-excitement, the pain is felt in a tight band around the head. If your child’s headache worsens over the course of the day and their emotional state leads you to suspect a tension headache, a massage can help. Massage your child’s shoulders and neck, and check-in with them to see if this is offering any relief. Older children can also be encouraged to try relaxation techniques to complement this therapy and reduce tension. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (where one muscle is tensed at a time and then the tension is completely relaxed) can be helpful.

Dietary helpers

A diet rich in magnesium can also help with tension headaches. This is because magnesium-rich foods promote good muscle health and relieve tension in the muscles. Foods high in magnesium include natural yogurt, bananas, spinach and fish. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, can also help. Good sources include eggs, lean meats and fortified cereals. An overall healthy and balanced diet is a good way to help your child manage their headaches: unfortunately, while some foods can help with tension headaches, others can trigger them. If your child is prone to them, limiting their intake of cheese, chocolate and meats containing nitrates (e.g. salami, bacon and hot dogs) could be beneficial. Talk to your child about the changes you make to their diet, and help them to see how this could be helping them feel better.

Essential oils

Essential oils are extracted from plants and are easily absorbed and inhaled. They interact with the limbic system, which controls several physiological functions. For headaches, they can be applied topically or inhaled for the best results, but if they are to be used topically, dilute them first. Recommended oils for tension headaches are peppermint oil, lavender oil and chamomile oil. Lavender oil in particular is often used in the treatment of stress in aromatherapy; since stress can be a cause of tension headaches, this is a useful oil to use with your child for a two-pronged approach.

Headaches are unpleasant for anyone, but they can be particularly distressing for children. Unfortunately, if it is tension headaches affecting your child, this distress could exacerbate the problem. If you’re concerned about the frequent use of medication, try tweaking your child’s diet, practice massage on them, and try essential oils to help alleviate symptoms and reduce stress.

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